Here you’ll find the city’s collection of creative and artistic institutions. World-class theatres, inspiring museums and galleries, innovative arts organisations, as well as much sought-after educational institutions. With this much art and culture to explore, you can get lost in the beauty of different times, places and spaces – all by walking from one building to the next. The South Bank Cultural Centre is also well connected to public transport with ample paid parking available.
Queensland Art Gallery and Gallery of Modern Art, known colloquially as QAGOMA, are two faces of the same artsy coin on what’s known as Kurilpa Point. And while Queensland Art Gallery and Gallery of Modern Art may serve up distinct offerings within each of their neighbouring walls, the driving force is the same. Through an impressive collection of more than 20,000 works of historical, modern and contemporary art, QAGOMA’s mission is to connect visitors with creativity and the endless power it wields to both inspire and connect us with each other's humanity. Alongside the exhibitions and art collections, the galleries also host a compelling roster of events and programs throughout the year – often themed around visiting shows.
Known for holding permanent collections of Australian and international artists as well temporary exhibitions exploring a variety of themes, the Queensland Art Gallery stretches across two levels. With free entry to all galleries, you can make your way through the various spaces slowly, taking in pieces from the world’s most-renowned masters. If the art appreciation has worked up a hunger, the QAG Cafe (next to the Sculpture Courtyard and Water Mall) serves a fresh selection of light eats 10am to 4pm daily from a cool, leafy courtyard.
A short, 150 metre stroll up a path, a monolithic white building rises from the sub-tropical surroundings. Very much an installation in its own right (it’s illuminated from within as part of artist James Turrell’s Night Life 2018) it transforms nightly, glowing in an effervescent roster of bright colours. Once you step inside these contemporary art-packed walls, you’ll find yourself whisked away to other worlds: places, feelings and experiences explored through the eyes (and talents) of some of the world’s most envelope-pushing contemporary artists. Although the galleries are all ages (with close supervision of little wanderers), you’ll also find the interactive Children’s Art Centre here.
The GOMA restaurant serves elevated plates made from local produce in a sleek space Wednesday to Sunday, but if casual fare is on the menu, the GOMA Bistro is the place to find light and hardy meals for all ages from 9am to 4pm daily.
A night (or matinee) at the theatre is one of life’s little pleasures. If you are lucky enough to be able to experience it, Queensland Performing Arts Centre is one of the country’s best. It’s the state’s premier performing arts space and has showcased the best local, national and international works for more than 30 years. With a multitude of theatres and halls of varying sizes – the Concert Hall and the Cremorne and Lyric theatres to name a few – the state-of-art facility has welcomed everything from award-winning Broadway musicals to local productions. See inspiring and entertaining plays, dance productions, opera plus classical and contemporary music before leaving the dark of the theatre to be front row for the nightly South Bank encore: the city’s skyline twinkling magically over the river. Only a short stroll from all of Little Stanley and Grey streets’ eateries, dinner and a show (or a show followed by an ice cream!) makes for a special night out.
The Queensland Museum and Sciencentre is filled with both permanent and changing collections, exhibitions and immersive, interactive displays. Visitors can explore the multi-level museum discovering the secrets of the dinosaurs, peering at fossils of ancient creatures and taking part in kinetic displays and educational experiments. Covering everything from archaeology, anthropology, natural history, cultural heritage, science and human achievement, it’s also home to the much-loved SparkLab. The space, for ages six to 13, is dedicated to all things STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) with interactive experiments and programs running regularly.
There’s also a cafe plus outdoor play area, Dinosaur Garden, where little paleontologists can track ancient creatures including the fearsome T-rex and lumbering triceratops.
It may be the repository for the vast collection of Queensland’s literary history but the State Library of Queensland is much more than just a place to keep books and magazines. It is home to an extensive catalogue of newspapers, manuscripts, journals, state archives, maps and rare books, but the library also houses music, photographs, films, videos and e-resources.
Alongside these collections, SLQ hosts exhibitions and curations of historical importance like Queensland, First Nations and family history, aimed at preserving the state’s diversity and cultural history.
Open daily from 10am to 5pm, the State Library also runs a schedule of regular and programmed events like story time for babies and children, artist and author talks, workshops and performances.
Boating enthusiasts, get ready to set sail – Queensland and Australia’s largest collection of maritime history and and some of its vessels can be found at South Bank. Anchored under the entrance to the Goodwill Bridge, Queensland Maritime Museum is an excellent South Bank activity for both young and old. Inside the air-conditioned building you’ll find a collection of relics, models and maritime paraphernalia stretching back across the states rich history – filled with stories of battleships and industry boats alike. See the impressive warship HMAS Diamantina or pearl lugger Penguin. Then explore a heritage-listed dry dock (remaining from the establishment of the colony of Queensland) before hearing from one of the passionate volunteers who help the museum continue chugging.
Go back to school by popping into Griffith University’s South Bank campus. While most of the spaces are for currently enrolled students, the university does hold regular shows and exhibitions that are open to the public. Of five QCA galleries, there are two located at South Bank campus – the Project Gallery and Webb Gallery – where you can see the works of students, staff and external exhibitors.
Hidden within the ABC Queensland building near the Cultural Forecourt, the Queensland Symphony Orchestra studio holds regular concerts and recitals open to the public alongside their community and education work. Check out their Concert and Events for more.
Based inside Griffith University’s Queensland Conservatorium of Music, Queensland Opera’s mission is to make opera accessible to all. The annual program features classics like Cossi fan tutti and Macbeth in Concert (at the Playhouse, QPAC), but the organisation often takes the music on tour with travelling events like the Festival of Outback Opera and performances in Live at South Bank’s Sunset Opera program.
South Bank’s cultural precinct, the Parklands and the streets surrounding are also home to public art worth seeing, outside the confines of museums and galleries. From the Pillars Project Street Art on the corner of Montague Road and Merivale Street all the way to Dock Street, you can see large-scale murals plus sculptures and artworks by some of the city’s most exciting artists. For more specific sites – including those within easy reach of South Bank – check out Brisbane Canvas and Brisbane Street Art Festival.